‘Is anyone here for the legal clinic?’ a woman asked the two women waiting in the lobby of the Associated Studens of UC Irvine conference room. The questioner disappeared behind the partition amid negative replies. After leaving, one woman asked the other, ‘What is that?’
The College Legal Clinic is a free clinic, where, from 2 to 4 p.m. each Wednesday, students can speak with a lawyer and receive free legal advice. Funded through ASUCI and therefore part of tuition fees, the clinic is available to students who either have an immediate legal concern or just a general legal inquiry.
One student who heard about the clinic through a campus-wide e-mail used the time with the lawyer to discuss tax-filing issues after studying abroad and for some advice on the legal benefits of marriage.
While there are some legal advantages to marriage, such as health benefits and inheritance benefits, the financial disadvantages deserve consideration. The student reported that the lawyer said, ‘If you marry someone with a lot of debt, half of that debt is now legally yours.’
Satisfied with the advice and the privacy to discuss personal legal issues, the student has found other legal sources to be just as helpful. The student quoted Judge Judy’s advice that ‘If you’re lending money then put it in writing, even if it’s your mother and especially if it’s your lover.’
The clinic, which has been open for three weeks, has been booked every week for the entire two hours. Clinic Director Adam Kent estimates that they have already served the legal quandaries of approximately 40 students. Kent, who established the program here after breaking from the lawyer referral program with Cal State Fullerton, stressed that although the Legal Clinic can be used after legal trouble has arisen, ‘it is here for advice in every sense.’
The Clinic currently has 20 lawyers and is trying to reach 30 in order to have a different lawyer for each week of the school year. The panel of lawyers practice in civil litigation and criminal law. Student Andy Soliman was not discouraged after seeking advice about a traffic ticket only to find out that the lawyer did not practice municipal law. ‘She still gave me some good tips,’ Soliman remarked and overall he felt it was helpful to speak with someone about it.
Another student, preparing to represent himself in his upcoming defense trial made an appointment to discuss court procedures with one of the lawyers. Noting that it was useful, the student said that the lawyer ‘answered questions that I wasn’t able to find in books.’
To meet with a lawyer it is necessary to book an appointment at least two days in advance. The appointments can be booked online at http://www.asuci.uci.edu/legalclinic and confirmations are sent via e-mail. As Soliman noted the, ‘system of setting up the appointment was efficient.’
Once the meeting time is in place there are three possible outcomes, according to Kent. First, for students just with questions, there are simple answers. Second, if the student requires further legal assistance than an attorney referral program is available. The last outcome for the student is that they may retain the attorney with whom they are discussing their issue.
One under-age student who was issued a citation involving alcohol in Las Vegas needed clarification on the nature of the ticket. Unsure whether or not he would have to appear in court, the student asked the attorney. She advised the student that he ‘should call to figure out if [they] can just send in the money without even trying to fight it.’ Although the lawyer’s advice was brief, due to the difference in State Laws, the student still found the meeting helpful. ‘I think a lot of people, a surprising amount of people have legal issues and as long as people know about this, it is definitely worth it,’ the student said.